SANF 22 no 02 – by Kizito Sikuka and Clarkson Mambo
This is the first in a series of two articles looking forward to 2022 in the SADC region.
The year 2022 promises to be an eventful period for southern Africa, with hopes that the region could begin to see a return to normalcy after the global community was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This article looks at some of the key issues expected to dominate the agenda for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in the coming year to achieve deeper integration and stability.
“Our task in 2022 is simple, but not easy,” the current SADC chair, President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi said during a recent visit to the SADC Secretariat headquarters in Botswana. “Our task is to increase regional integration and development.”
Intensified response to COVID-19 pandemic
Curbing the coronavirus remains a top priority for SADC as the region begins to reopen economies and relax some lockdown measures that have disrupted the implementation of various regional activities, programmes and projects since March 2020.
SADC Member States are expected to invest more this year in strengthening their national campaigns to mobilize citizens to get vaccinated as there has been a low uptake of the COVID-19 vaccines in some member states due to various factors including misinformation about the vaccine.
When more people are fully vaccinated, this will enable the SADC region to reach group immunity, enabling the removal of restrictions, since science has shown that the vaccination lowers the risk of getting and spreading the virus, and can help to prevent serious illness and death.
SADC is also expected to intensify plans to engage the private sector and the expertise needed to produce vaccines and other medical products locally and regionally. Such a development will strengthen self-reliance and ensure that the region is able to take charge of its own health.
Another priority for SADC in addressing COVID-19 is to invest more resources in strengthening public health systems and continuing to enforce strict anti-coronavirus regulations such as social distancing, regular health screenings, and wearing of masks at all times.
Manufacturing and industrialisation
On the economic front, SADC wants to continue to improve its manufacturing capacity as well as promoting industrialization to ensure that the abundant natural resources in the region benefit the people of the region through beneficiation instead of being shipped out as raw material.
The manufacturing sector’s share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the region has increased from an average of 10.3 percent in 2013 to about 11.9 percent in 2018, and the region now targets to more than double that share to 30 percent by 2030 and 40 percent by 2050.
An increase in the manufacturing sector’s share of GDP has ripple effects on the economy including an increase in production, employment and foreign currency generation from the export of value-added products.
Most Member States are estimated to be earning a lot of income through the export of raw and unprocessed products such as tobacco, cotton, gold, platinum and diamonds. However, these earnings could be doubled if the products are sold in their processed form.
In this regard, the region will this year pursue efforts to boost its manufacturing capacity by developing vibrant and innovative funding facilities that support the regional manufacturing sector to acquire machinery and equipment for production using modern technology.
Balancing the water-energy-food nexus
Balancing the competing needs of water, energy and food will be a priority for SADC as the economy and the population show growth. This growth puts more pressure on these resources, with additional challenges such as climate change.
For example, low rainfall received in recent years has seen large parts of the region record very low reservoir water-levels affecting energy generation, although that is expected to recover this year.
SADC is seeking innovative approaches to forge closer collaboration between the water and energy sectors as well as that of agriculture since these are inextricably linked, and any uncoordinated development in one area has the capacity to negatively impact on others.
Taking charge of the developmental agenda
In its quest to take charge of its own developmental agenda, the region will aim to ensure that the SADC Regional Development Fund (RDF) becomes a reality.
The SADC RDF is a regional financing mechanism for economic development and sustainable growth that seeks to finance regional infrastructure, industrial and social development. It is expected to have an initial authorised capital of US$13 billion.
In 2022, the region will aim to ensure that at least three of the remaining six SADC Members States sign the agreement that will enable establishment of the SADC RDF.
A total of nine Member States, against a minimum target of 12 required, have signed the agreement.
The establishment of the RDF will be a springboard for the developmental agenda of SADC. According to the SADC Secretariat, it is estimated that only 9.2 percent of regional projects are funded by Member States, while International Cooperating Partners (ICPs) funded the remaining 90.8 percent.
Such a situation compromises the ownership and sustainability of regional programmes. (sardc.net)
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